Agave Carrots

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I used to be scared of feeding carrots to babies and toddlers, but this sweet recipe is the perfect way to introduce this nutritious veggie. Steam the carrots until they are super soft to begin with, then add this decadent sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound carrot coins
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Steam the carrots for 10 to 15 minutes, until very tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the agave and lemon juice.
  3. Add the carrots and cook for a final minute or two to heat thoroughly.

You can serve these warm or chilled, depending on your kids’ preference.

Touch Adventure

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Veronika makes it quite clear when we’re out and about these days that she’s no longer a baby, content to sit and watch the world. She wants to touch and explore! This “touch adventure” game is one you can play anywhere – a restaurant, a waiting room, a playground – and will hopefully help pass the time with a curious toddler. For the sake of photographs, we also played a round at home today!

The idea is just to look around you, select and object, and put your toddler’s hand on it. Describe everything he or she is feeling, and invite them to hold the object. Some children may just want to look at first, which is just fine, but Veronika definitely wanted to hold.

A stuffed animal was soft and fluffy.

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A ball was hard and smooth. Duplo blocks were bumpy.

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A tea cup was cold and metallic.

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Now that she had the idea, we could play out and about! At the library, a pom pom was crinkly and scratchy.

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A toy pirate was plastic and hard.

Touch Adventure altAt a restaurant, ravioli was soft, warm and squishy.

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You get the idea! You can literally play this game anywhere, so let the touch adventures begin.

Follow the Leader

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Veronika has taken five steps forward on her own… but she’s reluctant to do so and will drop to a crawl more often than not. Today, I was hoping a good old-fashioned game of Follow the Leader might inspire her forward.

We started out with a few copying moves (almost like ‘Simon Says‘) to get her in a follow-along mood. Could she tap sticks like me?

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Stomp her feet like me?

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(Note: We have a silly sloth toy that claps its hands and moves to the beat. Toys like these are also great to teach your toddler to play copycat).

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Now it was time to follow the leader! Big brother marched ahead and we sang “We’re Following the Leader” as we marched around the apartment.

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Finally, I let go of her hands and kept marching to see if she would continue to follow. It’s still a work in progress, but this was a great game to set her steps in motion!

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Don’t forget to play a reverse version and let your toddler be the leader. I took a few minutes to copy her moves, whether crawling after her or tapping our tummies, and she loved being the one in charge!

Deep Sea Adventure

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Today Veronika and I had an adorable play session pretending we were at sea! I love that she’s old enough now (at just shy of 16 months) to combine imaginative play with toys and games.

First, I set the stage with lots of sea-themed objects. We had plastic whales, sharks, and fish, a toy boat, and a book with a fish on the cover as scenery. Later I even remembered to add a blue blanket on the ground for “water”.

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If you don’t have any sea creature toys, just cut fish shapes from cardboard and color them in together first!

All we needed to set sail was an empty laundry basket. Veronika climbed aboard the ship, and I attached a jump rope as her ship’s line.

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We “sailed” around the room singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, to her great delight. Another fun song goes like this:

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea

To see what she could see, see, see

and all that she could see, see, see

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea!

I added an empty paper towel tube to be her telescope.

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We loved spotting fish. And whale watching!

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Her fast favorite was a little green fish, which she swam all over the floor. You could even encourage older toddlers to get on the floor and pretend they are swimming.

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The shark was the next big hit. After she learned to say “shark”, she had it jumping around and climbing on board the boat.

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If anybody needs a rescue at sea, reel them in with your jump rope “line”.

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In sum, don’t discount a 16 month old’s ability for imaginative play. That imagination is kicking in, right alongside the gross motor and fine motor skills.

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Story Sound Effects

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Here’s a fun way to add dynamics – literally! – to story time with a toddler. This activity is particularly useful for kids who might not otherwise sit still for a story.

First, I gathered together items that make noise. Instruments are an obvious pick, but also think of rattles or toys that jingle, and things that can be tapped together like wooden blocks.

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For the first version of the game, I told a story out loud instead of reading from a book.

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Picking “Jack and the Beanstalk” as our tale, I used the tinkle of a triangle for magical moments like the cornstalk growing, a castanet for the hooves of the cow at market, a horn to toot for the golden goose, and wooden blocks to tap for the Giant’s big footsteps.

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Veronika might not have understood the story, but she was enthralled by all the sounds. She loved grabbing a noisemaker or two to join in.

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For the next round, I read from a favorite book (Little Blue Truck) and similarly found items that made sounds throughout the story. A toy horn was perfect for Blue’s “beep beep beep”!

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As we got to each animal, I invited Veronika to chime in. Horse says…? “Neigh!” she responds. Here’s a clip!

Invite your child to join in on any similar animal sounds in your story, or to sing along to various words. Whether you’re shaking maracas for rain or stomping your feet for thunder, story sounds effects like this will be a fantastic way to keep your child engaged!

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Swedish Pancakes

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This pancake batter whips up in a blender for easy prep, and results in a thinner, crepe-like pancake. The recipe was a fun addendum to recent Swedish dishes Travis has prepared.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Strawberry jam
  1. In a blender, combine the Ener-G eggs, almond milk, butter, flour, sugar, and salt. Process until smooth.
  2. Heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup batter and swirl so the batter reaches the edges of the pan. Cook for 1 minute; then flip and cook for about 20 seconds on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  3. Serve with strawberry jam and powdered sugar, if desired.

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Kids can fold these up and eat them as little hand-held pockets. If your kids don’t want them with jam and powdered sugar, simply top with more familiar maple syrup instead!

How to… Feed Feathered Friends

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Travis and I have loved hearing birdsong on recent walks to the bus stop, a sure sign that spring is near. So we loved that this month’s “How To” column in Highlights magazine was a bird feeder for our feathered friends, helping them out while the ground is still quite frozen.

I challenged Travis to think of how he could make a strong base for the feeder from craft sticks. Seven lined up in a row with two across the top and bottom for reinforcement did the trick.

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We repeated this arrangement for the roof. For the sides, glue 4 craft sticks together in a square.

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I hot-glued everything together (wood glue would also work), and then added a few extra craft sticks for reinforcement where needed.

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Note: If using wood glue, consider using binder clips to hold everything together until the glue dries.

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Next we gave our bird feeder a coat of paint.

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Travis chose black and yellow – oriole colors!

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We took a special trip the store for birdseed, following Highlights suggestions for who eats what in which part of the country. We opted for black-oil sunflower seeds, popular with titmice in our region.

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It was so warm outside that we didn’t even need our coats when we went to hang this in the sunshine. We can’t wait to watch the birds enjoy their meal.

Maple Barley Breakfast

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This warm breakfast cereal is a nice alternative if your kids are tired of oatmeal.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 2/3 cup cooked pearl barley
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, divide the cooked barley among two bowls. Drizzle evenly with the milk and syrup.

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Shaving Cream Color Mixing Bag

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Here’s a spin on a recent color mixing activity Veronika enjoyed for Valentine’s Day. This time the bags were bigger and the whole thing was a lot squishier!

For set up, squirt paint into the corners of three gallon-sized zip-top bags. Each bag should contain a pair of primary colors: red + yellow, yellow + blue, and blue + red.

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I next squirted a healthy dose of shaving cream into each bag between the two colors.

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Seal the tops with duct tape for added security, or this could get messy!

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Now it was just up to Veronika. She immediately loved squishing the bags between her palms.

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It turns out they were also a blast to throw up in the air…

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…or behind her back. Ta da!

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Once she had thoroughly kneaded the bags, the colors started to mix together. It wasn’t as clear a “lesson” on primary and secondary colors as other sensory bags we’ve tried, but the visual effect was still lots of fun and quite pretty!

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Here is the final, squished and much enjoyed result.

Shaving Cream Color Mix (!0)

Expressing Emotion

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Anyone who has a toddler knows that those little bodies have big emotions. That’s why today I focused on putting words to feelings whenever Veronika had an emotion coursing through her. This is a helpful tactic for dealing with toddler tantrums, not just for your child (who learns to put words to feelings) but also for caregivers who might feel at a loss witnessing a full meltdown.

I’m always glad to point out a good mood, of course, so don’t forget to do so. At breakfast, I told a smiling Veronika, “You’re feeling happy!”

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Later in the day, it was her big brother who was feeling sad, and Veronika looked worried. I named the emotion for her so it was less scary: “Brother is feeling a little sad right now, but he’ll feel better soon.”

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And then of course, there’s the tantrum. “I can see that you’re angry, I understand,” I told her when she wanted me to hold her but the laundry needed folding.

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Follow this up with a big hug. Sometimes just that physical touch will be enough to circumvent tantrum mode.

Do you have any tricks to curb a toddler meltdown? Please share in the comments!